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tv   John Hanson and the Articles of Confederation  CSPAN  May 16, 2015 11:00pm-12:02am EDT

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uthor peter hansen michael talks about john hanso n. mr. michael's book is titled remembering john hanson. he explores the role that john hanson played during the formation of the country and the u.s. constitution. >> ladies and gentlemen welcome to the maryland inn. my name is mike radek. this lady beside me is peg. she has been our innkeeper for years and helps me run the property for events like this. i want to welcome you to another
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treaty of paris center event. and represents the art mission between the historic inns of annapolis. posting pictures and forgotten sketches of the 14 forgotten presidents before george washington. i will turn this over to mark. i hope you have a very enjoyable afternoon. thank you mark. [applause] mark: thank you again for coming today. we are very delighted to have peter hanson michael as our speaker. he serves as the president of the john hanson memorial association. both in frederick maryland where hansen rose to political prominence.
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his book is called "remembering john hanson" which has 12 national book prizes. peter hanson michael descends from john hanson's immigrant grandfather. he is the author of "palace of yawns" which in 2014 one a national book award. his latest book "running on empty: america has its say on economic equality" is due out. he is a graduate of the university of maryland, berkeley and princeton and lives with his wife vickie. please join me in welcoming peter hanson michael. [applause] peter: thank you mark.
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is this loud enough? there is no volume. i will just speak into the mic. it is nice to be here with you all. if you are of a certain age you might remember this from history books as i do. if you're a younger person you are probably never taught that our nation had two governments. we are under the second one. in the 1780's, prior to the constitutional government, we had the original government with its own constitution "the articles of confederation." it was a week government.
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no one was more aware of this than the presidents who each served a one-year term. the first year government did the nation quite a favor by replacing itself through the constitutional convention. a credit to them. the first president was john hanson. the only maryland or -- marylander to serve in the nation's highest office. i would point out that washington, jefferson, lincoln and presidents into the 20th century, clearly recognize that john hanson was the actual first president of the united states.
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that is a historical fact that has been lost in the american memory over the last 50 years. what i will ask you to do today is to spread the word and get the history correct. tell your children and grandchildren about our actual history. this slideshow will be illustrated. there will be information on each slide. with an illustration on each slide. this is mulberry grove. where hanson was born. his father constructed the home in 1700. he was built there in 1715. he was schooled in england in finance. that paid off during the revolutionary war and his presidency. i had the privilege of spending
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the night in his home a couple thanksgivings ago. it is currently for sale. the owners are elderly and one is ill. i am trying to find a way that this ends up in public ownership and becomes a national memorial honoring hanson and the revolution. if you have any ideas on that, by all means, let me know. why would comfortable john hanson living in a home that his father built pull up stakes in the 50's, which in his era was considered well along in years and moved to the front tier.
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frederick, maryland. this is the valley where frederick is located. i took this picture from the top of sugarloaf mountain. it is 1200 feet high. that counts as a mountain in western maryland. the reason was that opportunity moved west. hanson saw it and he went up and reconnoitered the county. he saw the french and german and swiss immigrants were much more attuned to the idea of nationhood than the people in charles county where he came from which were still mostly british loyalists. it was also the largest and fastest-growing and most populous county in maryland at the time. it was settled by the forward-looking immigrants i have mentioned. other than the governorship itself, the head of the county was the most powerful executive
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position in maryland. hanson would have done no good as the governor of maryland. this was colonial days. he would have had to have been appointed by the british. that is not what he had in mind. he went to this county where his ideas resonated and they elected him to every office he ever sought and two offices he did not seek. if you are good that can happen. this is his portrait. the date is unknown. this looks to be a man in his 40's or a little younger. painted by an artist named john. when the revolutionary war broke out in massachusetts, the first militias to reach general
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washington and help them out were two militias which john hanson mustered. they were true sharpshooters. up they went on a 22-day march. he helped arm maryland. he owned a flintlock factory. a flintlock is part of an old revolutionary era musket. it holds the flint and sets the gun off. he manufactured those. he took the lead in financing the war in maryland. maryland ended up sending a higher proportion of its population into the continental army than any other state. as you might know, the national hall in the united states capital has two statues of the native sons and daughters of every state. one of the two for maryland both
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placed there in 1903, there in the capital. the sculptor made this full-sized model which is about seven feet tall. if you have been to the maryland senate chapter there are two one of which is of hanson on the deus. -- dias. hanson twice kept the nation whole. that is one of the reasons why he was twice elected as president. in late june, 1776, when there were 12 colonies on this new thing called the declaration of independence, the doubting maryland was out. the predecessor to the maryland general assembly was not sure they were not sure what the other colonies were doing.
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thank you. it was supportive but was not short wanted to do this. hanson took the lead among many in the maryland legislative body sing this isn't going to work -- saying this isn't going to work. the british would love this. we have to go in on the declaration of independence. the second continental congress was sitting there in philadelphia waiting on word from maryland.
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they finally said, we can only wait so long. we will wait until july 2 and if maryland is not in at that point, it is out. they were sitting there literally the afternoon when a rider came in from maryland and said maryland is in. that made it unanimous. hanson took the lead in keeping the nation whole the first time. you probably know this, but the work was all that -- all but
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done. it got accepted in a very -- the document didn't take effect until august 2. on july 3, john adams wrote a letter saying forever enshrined in our nation's memory will be the date of july the second. how was john to know. this is the declaration of independence here, with the famous signature of john hancock. one of the myths about john hanson, and there are quite a few, is that he was a signer of the declaration. he wasn't. he was a signer of the articles of confederation, but not the declaration of independence. at the same time that the declaration was put forth, there
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was a motion put forth to form a continental congress and have it draft a constitution. by the fall of 1777, the committee reported in. we don't have a government yet. the second continental congress was a consultative body of 13 colonies and states that were trying to form a government. this committee came up with its draft of a charter in the articles of confederation in september 1777. congress looked it over and tweaked a few things and in november signed off on it and said this is what we want to submit to the states. they had separate governments. because they declared independence they were 13 separate nationstates, much as you see in the european union today.
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in late 1777, out the articles went to the 13 states for ratification. the other was the western lands impasse. six of the 13 colonies had been granted so-called western lands by the british crown and seven had not. by that time in the maryland general assembly, what hanson saw was this would not work. they would outweigh in population the seven states without land grants and run the show. he said this won't work and it will lead to division and a breakdown of the nation that we
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are trying to form. three of these western land grants extended all the way to the pacific ocean and one of them, virginia is 200 miles into the pacific ocean. this is the connecticut land-grant here. here is virginia. here is georgia. if hanson had not done his work, what we would have is, seattle connecticut, san francisco virginia, and san diego, georgia. that doesn't sound right. the second continental congress was stuck on this for five years until maryland said, he persuaded us on this. there was a doctrine of maryland that hanson authored saying
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maryland will not join unless this is solved. the general assembly said, hanson, you have convinced us and we are electing you as our delegate to congress, go see if you can convince them. all others had failed. eight months after he arrived, he got all six of those states to swing around and agree to seed those -- cede those western lands as the population in the west rose. if that had not happened, it is not sure there ever would have been that first constitution. so hanson, the second time saved his nation. where things today have been forgotten about that period is that we had two governments. the first consonantal congress
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lasted three days, set up a boycott of british goods and called for a second congress to begin the following year. the second continental congress lasted six years and was the coordinating body among the colonies and states and then this interim body, the last breath of the second continental congress that existed during the 249 days between the time when the articles were ratified hanson's signature the last, and when the first government came into existence on the first monday of november that year november the fifth. you are not a nation until you have a government and a head of state. that did not happen until november 5, 1781, which is the actual day that our nation
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became a nation. everyone at the time it knew that. as its first act, they elected john hanson as its president unopposed. this is a drawing, artist unknown, of the signing of the articles of confederation and this is presumably hanson who withheld his signature on maryland's order until the lansing impasse had been settled. quilt in hand, -- quill in hand, getting us ready for nationhood. this is the new government issued by charles thompson. you probably cannot read it but it states that john hanson was elected president and that went out to all the states, to the ambassadors, general washington and others.
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we have this question which seems thorny but is simple. who was the first president? we had two governments and each government had its first president. john hanson, the first president of the original government. washington, or famously, the first president of the second government. as washington stated, hanson preceded him and was the actual first president of the united states. this has been recognized i presidents all the way to the 20th century. the second continental congress, as it was getting ready to
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ratify the articles got chased out of philadelphia, and ended up for a short period in pennsylvania. this is a courthouse where they met in york, and where the articles were actually signed. what was laid on hanson? every president we have had, except hanson was handed a functioning government. hanson was handed a blank slate and had to create a government from whole cloth and he had to do it right and make it stick and make it successful. he could not afford to fail and this is one reason why the icons of his era and others who sat in the new government. jefferson, adams, john hancock
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and benjamin franklin, chose hanson above all others. he was the first head of state and created the first cabinet. he established the government structure, much of which we still have in place today. he inaugurated peace negotiations. one of the best strokes of luck the nation ever had was the month before the government was created, we won the battle at yorktown, which did not end the revolutionary war that in effect it did. the conference was established. european nations began recognizing the united states diplomatically. a great trivia question. does anybody know which nation first recognized the united states? >> morocco? >> morocco. you get the goldstar. good for you. it was the kingdom of morocco. i lived there as a teenager. if you go and take a tour, your tour guide is likely to point this out.
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the postal service was founded. ben franklin put something together that resembled the national postal service but it wasn't national, it was a coordination between colonies and states. the state militia was nationalized into the army and navy that we know today. this was a unitary government. the government sat as the legislative and judiciary, and it was hanson who acted not just as a chief judge, but the only judge in settling things including a dispute about where the border between connecticut and new york might be. you settle that one and we had celebrated the fourth of july from town to town on thanksgiving day since the time of the pilgrims.
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it was up to the first government and hanson to decree these to be official recognitions. they were not national holidays until the franklin roosevelt administration. but it was hanson who decreed them to be official observances. why change governments? the first government was weak. it was weak because of the language in the articles of confederation. why would the framers come up with a week document? they had just thrown off an oppressive power in great
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britain and what they were reluctant to do was set up another strong government that might oppress them again. they deliberately made the government week but went too far. there was no taxing authority, so the first government couldn't even fund itself. it had to go hat in hand and say would you please. i only got 10% of what they other needed. the articles could only be amended with the unanimous consent of 13 states. in his first month in office he put forth a proposed change to the articles that would allow the government to fund itself through an import duty. it failed on a 12-1 vote. 12 states went for it but rhode island said no and that was the end of it. the articles were never amended and that got amended in the constitution. here are some of the other features of the first government and the 1st constitution that
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did not work very well, that got changed in our constitution. no one was more acutely aware of the shortcomings than the nine men who served as its president. this is a john hanson metal. it was issued by the united states capital historical society in 1981 on the 200th anniversary of john hanson's inauguration. i meant to say at the outset that this month is the 300 anniversary of john hanson's birth, specifically on april 14. there is a nice ceremony that will take place in the maryland senate monday night which i will attend. there are various celebrations going on here and there.
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encourage your community to do it as well. lost grave and mass grave. there is no american presidential couple that have suffered crueler fates with john and jane hanson, with the possible exception of abraham and mary lincoln. the couple was traveling in november, 1783, a year after he completed his term as president. they were visiting their nephew at oxon hill manor.
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used to be all of this area right here. this is the woodrow bridge coming across the potomac into maryland. here is his huge cloverleaf that you see and down here is the beginning of the national harbor development. hanson was buried on the property in the family crypt that held hansons and addisons a previous family who had lived there and jane went back to live 29 years as a widow. a developer bought the property, an archaeologist hired by the state did a survey when the state was going to put in this big interchange, discovered and wrote up that the family crypt in which hanson and others had rested, had been directly robbed. all of the caskets were missing
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and the people in them and their whereabouts today are unknown. unknown. in 1993, under a new developer the one that developed national harbor, the site was accidentally bulldozed and leveled. i rediscovered the exact site in 2011. i have a lot of help from the maryland national parks and planning commission and this is the spot. there is an old intact graveyard and 400 feet from it is where the crypt was and where john hanson was buried. that exact spot looks like this today.
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what is being built there is a casino, a gambling hall right on top of where your first president was buried and that is an absolute shame. this picture was taken a day after thanksgiving last year. isn't that something? >> [inaudible] peter: no. let's see. the spot is actually on the other side where the pond is. that is just rainwater there. where i'm standing is close, within a few feet. it is completely gone today. this is the new john hanson memorial which was dedicated in
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frederick in 2012. the sculptor was toby mendez who did a beautiful job. come up and see it sometime. if you do, give me a call and i will get together with you. it sits right next to the site of john hanson's house which existed until 1981 when it was torn down. other than his statue, which is hard to reach due to security concerns, this is the only place americans have had to honor their first president. this was funded by the state of maryland, that is you, by state tax dollars and private donations collected by the john hanson memorial association. all of the women who served beside the presidents fulfilled the role of first lady even though the term didn't come about until the buchanan administration in the 1850's. james buchanan was the only bachelor president. what -- rather than have a wife, he invited his niece to serve and that purpose, which she did.
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the press and others didn't know what to call her one of the press came up with first lady. with the next first lady everyone started calling her that and all first ladies since then. the title didn't become official until eleanor roosevelt. the first lady didn't have a staffer budget until florence harding in the 1920's. even though the title didn't come about until long after hanson was president, every woman served in the role of first lady which makes jane hanson the first.
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this is the portrait of her, i would guess she was about 30 at that age. it would be illegal today and when they married john was 28 and she was 15. that is the way it worked in those days. jane was a widow fort wayne nine years and died in 1812 and she was buried in her churches graveyard. the graveyard was sold to a developer in 1913. 350 people were reinterred in the cemetery in frederick. they were buried in a traditional way below their gravestone.
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if you had an illegible gravestone or none or were in an unmarked coffin, you were buried in this mass grave. 286 of them altogether. she was lost for a while. jane hanson saw a lot of life. she died in her 84th year and outlived 12 of her 14 children. can you imagine burying 12 of your children? she is an unsung american heroine. thanks to the records at the cemetery and eight dedicated superintendent, he and i spent hours and hours pouring over the cemetery records and we found the exact spot where she is buried and it is this great unmarked amount, 286 of them. however, the jane hanson national memorial was completed
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10 days ago. this is the mound that i mentioned behind it where she is buried and it was toby mendez who did the john and jane morreale who had the idea of finally reuniting them through this sculpture and memorial and that is what he did. i thought it was a brilliant stroke. later this year there will be a dedication ceremony and we will get the other u.s. senators and the others there as we did for john and we will dedicate this and i will ask you as you ask them to help promote the memory of jane hanson, the first first lady. these are tributes to the two of them. this is their grandson who was a united states senator, according to the constitution you have to be 30 to serve and when he was elected he wasn't 30 so he had
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to wait a couple of months until his birthday. he served only three years until he died of one of those diseases that people died of so much in those days at the age of 33. quite a story. john hanson's presidential portrait hangs in independence hall. that was another custom established in his administration. that the nation pays for a nice portrait of each of its presidents. there was a john hanson society of maryland which existed for 50 years. i cannot find any trace of it. there is a hanson bust atmel
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-- at mulberry grove. i drove in today on the hanson highway, in recent years we have the john hanson memorial association incorporated is a maryland nonprofit. the biography of hanson that i wrote in 2012, the jane memorial this year and his 300th birthday celebration this year. this is a family portrait of alexander hanson, senior who was the son of john and jane hanson. i had lunch downstairs in the restaurant and i noticed something hanging on the wall beside me and i looked up and almost fell off of my chair. it was the appointment letter written by -- help me out --
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daniel of st. thomas jenifer pointing alexander as the chancellor of maryland in 1780 and right beside it was a letter signed by alexander hanson. i was quite surprised. so why has he faded from memory? this is a fairly recent phenomenon. as recently as the 1930's there were three irb fees written of him. there was a john hanson society, presidents were still saying that he was the real first present but since then only last 80 years, the nation and maryland's memory of john hanson has begun to slip. in 1836, a historian borrowed his papers and an amount of the
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papers of george washington to write a history of the collaboration and lost the papers. his frederick home was torn down in 1981. his grave was destroyed. his family line has died out. i am in touch of a number of hanson descendents but not with a surname of hanson. when you look through his genealogy, his children didn't have many children or sons and the line fizzled out. mine is the 11 biography of hanson but the previous ones were rather thin. i hope my is not the last but in case it is i decided i would
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stop it with everything that i could find out about him and that is why there are live appendices and 330 and notes. i wanted to get it all in there but not clog up the narrative. there are internet myths, those are amazing. i should have a slide on that. he wasn't the third president, he was the first. his grandfather was not an indentured servant, he was a wealthy british person. then, the decade of the 1780's is neglected. when i was running the hanson biography, i thought i have to be missing something. i went all over amazon and looked in libraries for a history of what john quincy adams called the critical decade, the 1780's. that was the make or break
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decade of the 1980's. would we win the revolutionary war, could we form a government? could we strengthen the government when it needed to be strengthened? all of that had to happen and did happen in the 1780's. so i e-mailed 20 historians, most of them are phd's i e-mailed a historian friend of mine whose book last year was nine did -- nominated for a pulitzer prize in history. most of them e-mailed back and were embarrassed saying, i
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should know of one, but i don't. so the conclusion was, if prime historians say i cannot identify the history of the 1780's, there isn't one, and there isn't. if any of you would like to write a history of the 1780's you have my complete encouragement, because this is a huge gap in the american record. there are good history's of people who lived in those 1780's, the constitutional convention but nothing on the critical decade. this is the book for sale back there, hard covers are 30 and paperbacks are 20. i would be glad to autograph it. i was very honored and completely surprised to hear that this one a national book prize in biography and a few months later, darn, if it didn't win a second one. i think it is the topic and not the author. you can get it online but it won't be autographed. this is the latest book and the newest line.
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i want to put in a plug for this book. i didn't think it was possible to have more fun writing a book than when i wrote remembering john hanson. i was wrong. my wife and i bought a small rv and went around the country listening to people. the way that others had done before, john steinbeck's travels with charley, the great blue and jack kerouac's "on the road." this is a road book. those three authors went out asking a particular question and got muddled answers. they abandoned their questions.
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i said if two pulitzer prize winners struck out, i probably would too. not expecting to hear a particular drumbeat, but i did. as most of you have heard, income disparity has gotten far worse over the last 40 years, in particular the great recession where all of the national growth has gone to a small fraction of the top percent of incomes and others have lost ground. that is what i heard loud and clear in various forums, of what happened to people. people are normally reluctant to discuss finances but not on this trip. this is not out yet but it is close, within weeks or days. what i would ask you to do is to take this story of john hanson battier communities and tell
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this -- back to your communities and tell this to them. make sure your grandkids know this, that they can answer the favorite tv trivia question, who was the first president? i can tell you today that you can get in contact with me and that e-mail address comes directly to me or i am easy to find on the internet. this is the presidential portrait painted by someone who is probably the most famous portraitist in our history. thank you and i will be happy to answer any questions that you might have. [applause] i see that we have a traveling mic. it is good because i forgot my hearing aid. >> is there even a good guess as to where he actually is? peter: no. i looked as hard as anyone. if you were a grave robber, i have asked myself what would i
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do with coffins? i don't know, did they burn them or bury them? toss them into the potomac? it was a nefarious act particularly a presidential grave and the whereabouts of the coffins and those inside them is completely unknown with no clues. >> in as much as we know, what has changed from july 2 to july 4? peter: there were very minor changes that the second continental congress wanted. >> passed on the third? peter: on the second.
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that date july 2, 1776, after the discussion, it was john hancock who assigned thomas jefferson to make these minor changes in the declaration of independence. on the fourth he came back with minor and few changes, dotting i's and crossing t's and then congress said ok now we are ready to have a vote and they did. they had accepted it with a vote on the second and it was just a formal ratification. >> [inaudible] i am wondering if you found any overlap between your investigation of hanson's history and [inaudible] peter: there is some. i had to limit myself into how much information not directly
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related to hanson got into the book. i think his name is mentioned and i think you'll find it in the index, but there is very little about him in the books, so i am not prepared to answer. i don't know how much overlap there might have been or what the relationship might have been between the two. >> could you compare the first president's memories to the next seven? are they all equally as forgotten as hanson? peter: oh yes. if you think john hanson is forgotten think of his successor, elias is a complete non-entity today and is generally regarded as the nation's first philanthropist.
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in part is the reason why he was elected. henry lee was the third president. he was at times regarded as being on par with jefferson, madison, franklin and the others. general and dr. arthur st. clair, the eighth president among the nine, was a famous revolutionary war general. john hancock had the famous signature. he was the fifth president did not serve because he was too ill. in the book, when i thought i was done with the book i said, there is something missing. a tribute to these other eight after hanson who served as president's of the first government. i put in a fairly good
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subchapter and called it the forgotten nine. i gave each one about a page write-up. as a group they fared better than the 44 presidents of the second government. there were no scandals or watergate. these men had sacrificed their fortunes and families. hanson lost two sons in the revolutionary war. they were a sterling group and certainly deserve to be remembered. did i answer the question you asked? >> yes. >> what was the elective process for that? nine in seven years? they were elected with some periodicity or the guy just quit? peter: they had one year terms the reason we get to nine is hancock was elected but could
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not serve. he recovered later. two others served in his place a half year each. they all served out there terms. >> [inaudible] peter: specified as 81-year - a 1-year term. they didn't want any individual staying too long and accumulating power. that didn't work. they all said that i barely got started. when they sat down at the constitutional convention the discussed how many years the presidential term ought to be and settled on four. >> were they turned president of the united states or president of the confederation? peter: both. it said something to the effect, in the articles, that the
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president of the congress stands above all other americans. the presidents were clearly recognized as the heads of state at home and abroad. when ambassadors would present their credentials they would present them to the president which is how it happens still. they had far fewer powers than the president of the second government. that is something else that was corrected in the second constitution. >> most of his descendents, are they still in this area? peter: they are all over. i had a call one day from a fascinating elderly lady in connecticut. she introduced herself and when i grew up my family told me we were related to john hanson and
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she said can you tell me how? she gave me some clues, but sure enough she is distantly related to john hanson. her last name is hinson. very early in the maryland colony, a hinson married a hanson. that hinson's woman turned out to be my friend june's seventh great-grandmother and mine. i said i hope it doesn't ruin your day but we are cousins. >> was there much interaction between john hanson and charles? peter: there were five elected by the maryland general assembly that we have today, five delegates.
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three of them never showed up. that kind of thing happened back then. carolyn hanson did show up and they worked very closely together particularly when they were trying to get the articles ratified. >> i'd like to find out more about the people in maryland at that time that participated in starting our state government and sending the continental congress. peter: there is a book back there. [laughter]
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it tells a lot about it. there is plenty on the internet. there is the doves society which specializes in the earliest european colonies. they have a website. the maryland archives. it is a lot of fun to go to the national archives in washington why read all of hanson's official papers and fish around down there. not much in the library of congress. that went over to the national archive. >> [inaudible] peter: about who? >> matthew tillman? peter: i haven't looked into him but tillman is a famous old maryland name. i don't know if it was matthew tillman but it was a lieutenant colonel tillman who wrote from -- who road from yorktown to
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philadelphia. to deliver the news to the congress. we beat them at yorktown. there is plenty out there on the tillman's. >> is there more information available about mulberry grove? peter: mulberry grove does not have a website. the owners are fairly private. there is plenty in the book and i found it by interviewing the owners and staying there. i got to know them real well. there is plenty on the internet. not all of it correct. >> i know he had a lot to do with raising the militia. i think he used a lot of his own money to pay the recruits, can you speak to that? peter: hanson did not quite go broke. he was always comfortable. he spent most of his fortune
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buying supplies for the revolutionary war and meeting payrolls when the second continental congress could not to keep these soldiers from deserting. he just plowed through his family fortune. he was a very wealthy man and an excellent businessman. there is a letter that he writes to his son, when he is president, saying, would you please go to the maryland government and see if it will pay me such and such amount that it owes me, i am in real want. this is the president of the united states. he gave it his all. as i mentioned, two of his three sons died in the revolution. >> you mentioned how there is no history of the 1780's, i guess
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there is one on the 70's and 90's, could you speculate why that decade got lost? peter: nobody knows and i don't either. it is at least as important as the 1790's. we would not have seen a second successful government if there had not been a first. we won the war. foreign troops on our soil. we put down a rebellion in 1784. there was the northwest territory act. a constitutional convention. it was a successful government week as it was. so why haven't historians jumped on that and written a pulitzer prize-winning book? if i were younger i might tackle it. any other questions?
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